NZ Woman's Weekly

Ain’t no mountain high enough

The talkback host, the Olympic rower and the musician/jewellery designer – Kerre McIvor, Juliette Haigh and Boh Runga are an eclectic mix of famous faces. But what connects them is determination, and along with Olympic gold- medallist rower Mahé Drysdale (Juliette’s fiancé) and comedian Rhys Darby, they will soon be striving to reach the summit of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.

This clutch of Kiwis is going more than the extra mile in aid of World Vision Micro, which raises funds for small-business entrepreneurs, so poor communities can become more self-sustaining.

In the lead up to their ascent later this month, the Weekly met with the ladies to find out how they plan to – in the words of the late Sir Edmund Hillary – “knock the bastard off.”

aint no mountain hight enough mt kilamanjaro

Climb of a lifetime! It will take five days to reach the summit and two days to descend.

Climbing Kilimanjaro comes with real risks, such as hypothermia, altitude sickness, exhaustion and, possibly, death. Why did you decide to participate in this challenge?

K: Let me tell you, I wouldn’t climb a mountain for just anyone or anything. But we’re doing it for World Vision Micro, which is a new initiative for micro-finance. It’s an intelligent way to give. And it’s an experience. As I’m getting older, I like being a bit scared and I like not knowing if I’m able to do something. I don’t like camping, or the cold. I hate being uncomfortable and I hate sharing, so it’s really a disaster waiting to happen!

B: I thought it was a good idea at the time! Now it’s looming… it still seems like a pretty good idea.

J: It’s getting quite real now. When you look at the list of things you need, it’s scary. But I love a challenge, and I love that it will be an adventure.

Of the 20,000 or so people who attempt to reach the summit, which is 5895m above sea level, it’s said 40% don’t make it. What are you most worried about?

B: Not being able to sleep properly. If I don’t get enough sleep, I get grumpy as!

K: For me, it’s failure. I’m more scared of not making it than I am of cerebral oedema. I don’t really see this as dangerous. Only eight to 12 people die a year. The odds are in my favour, and I’d rather die on the side
of Mt Kilimanjaro than in a rest home all lonely and in my own wees. Mind you, I’ll probably be in my own wees on the side of Kilimanjaro!

How have you prepared yourself for the climb?

J: We’ve all been doing extra training before we go.

B: Yeah, but you’re fit, you’ll be fine! We’re all just really determined to make it up there, so we’ve been working hard on our fitness.

K: I’ve been using the hyperbaric chamber at the Warriors’ gym. It probably won’t make a bit of difference, but psychologically it makes me feel I have an edge. I need an edge with two elite athletes and two young whippersnappers who have zero body fat.

Rhys has volunteered to be leader of your climbing party. How do you feel about that?

J: I’m fine with it, but I don’t know what Mahé thinks about it! I think he believes there should have been a fair contest to figure that one out.

K: I’ve said to Mahé that we can knock the bastard off in a midnight coup. But I’m quite happy, someone has to lead. I’m a good second-in-command, but not a leader. And if Rhys wants to take responsibility for getting my fat ass up the mountain, I’m happy for him to do so. I’ll be more maternal and nurturing, I think.

Are you prepared mentally for the climb and extreme conditions?

K: I have no idea. Deprived of food, oxygen and home comforts, I could turn into a feral cow. I could be that crazy lady.

J: Apparently you lose your appetite – you have to force the food down because you don’t feel like eating at all, but you need the energy! I’m a bit worried about that.

How do you plan on celebrating once you reach the summit?

K: I don’t know about the summit, but that first beer when we’re back at base camp is going to be good!

B: We might have to take some vodka up, it’s the only thing that won’t freeze. We can put it in one of those camelbacks!

J: Yeah, shots for everyone!

To support the climbers, visit For a peek behind the scenes of our photoshoot, visit

Kelly Bertrand

Photos: Jae frew

About Kelly Bertrand

“I started at the Weekly after a two-week internship in 2011, which was part of my journalism studies. Basically, I hung around and annoyed people long enough to land a job as a staff writer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m lucky enough to get to write stories ranging from the Kardashians through to the Queen, but my real passion is telling the stories of New Zealand’s sporting stars. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s my job to hang out with All Blacks and Silver Ferns! I absolutely love working at the Weekly, and feel really privileged to be part of this 83-year-old Kiwi institution. I’m also fond of Instagram, coffee and animals dressed as humans!”

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